Coronavirus lockdown: ‘How long will we survive with no work, little money?’, ask migrant workers

New Delhi: Nasir and his three friends reached Delhi’s Anand Vihar interstate bus terminal from the Old Seelampur area after hearing reports about availability of bus facilities to UP.

They were among thousands of migrant workers who had gathered near the bus terminal on Saturday, hoping to catch a bus to their villages in UP, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and even Bihar. The countrywide lockdown has left most of the labourers jobless in the capital and its satellite cities. They were adamant to reach their native places even at the cost of risking their lives, and many have even set on foot to villages hundreds of kilometres away, as they fear the lockdown could be extended beyond the currently announced 21 days.

“Kam nahi hai. Kab tak rukenge thode paise mein (there is no work. How long will we survive with little money),” said Nasir, as he was resting at a fuel pump near the bus terminal on Saturday afternoon.

Nasir and his friends, all in the age group of 25-35 years, belong to adjacent villages in UP’s Hardoi district, which is close to Lucknow. “We all are in the tailoring job and we have expertise in sewing ‘sherwani’. We have been doing this job in Delhi for the last five years,” he told ET.

“We are paid money on the basis of the number of sherwanis we sew. In one month, I earn between Rs 8,000 and 10,000 by working even during night shifts. The factory owner never pays our total money. A good part of our earnings always remains with him. We get our payment in parts,” he said.

‘How Long will we Survive with No Work, Little Money?’

Many of the people who had gathered at Anand Vihar claimed that with no money to pay rent and buy food, they cannot stay in the city, even as the Delhi government has exhorted them to stay back and offered all help.

A group of migrant workers, including children, women and men, was at the depot looking for a bus to go to Shamsabad in UP’s Farrukhabad district. In Delhi, they stay in a slum near Tarun Enclave. While the women cook ‘kachori’, the men sell it on the streets. They can’t do it now due to the lockdown.

“One person earns about Rs 300-400 daily. We pay Rs 3,000 per month as rent, besides about Rs 200 in electricity bill. We sell kachori mainly in slum areas. Now, there is no buyer and we have become unemployed. We have no option but to return to our villages,” said Brajesh.

They have come to Anand Vihar by three bicycles. “If the bus is not made available to us, we will go to our native village by bicycles,” Brajesh said. If there is a bus, they will request the driver to allow them to put the bicycles on its rooftop.

Kamta Prasad, a native of Madhya Pradesh’s Tikamgarh area, is accompanied by his brother, Raghubar. They have been staying in Delhi for the past five years, working as construction labourers. “It is difficult for us to survive in Delhi in the rest 18 days of the lockdown. We have paid our house rent of Rs 3,500. Now, we are looking for a bus which can take us to UP’s Jhansi. From Jhansi, we can go on foot to Tikamgarh,” Kamta told ET.

Phul Kumar, Santosh and Rajkishore, who work as carpenters in Delhi’s Mandawali area, have little hope of getting a bus to their village, which is in Bihar’s Sitamarhi district. “If luck favours, we may get a bus going to any place near the UP-Bihar border,” Kumar said.

Tilak Ram wants to go to Nawada village in UP’s Basti district. “Now, it is difficult for me to continue my stay in Delhi without doing any job.”

Source Article